Thought for food

January 28, 2000

Tim Lang regards BSE as inadequate application of science, not poor communication of science ("The sour, unsavoury taste of food standards", THES, January 21). Yet he takes the nutritional impact of food manufacturers' products to be a matter of "weak policy". In fact, it is also abysmal science.

Neither food market research nor dietary health research is evidence-based as is the rest of industrial and medical research. For decades science policy-makers have called for food choice research, only to have public and commercial funders refuse to support the psychological scientists equipped to do it.

The latest examples include the rejection of a proposal to collect evidence on the grounds of dearth of evidence, and turning down an offer to measure exposure to food hazards through a forum not controlled by stakeholders, because that "does not fully meet policy objectives"!

When we start finding out which eating patterns really benefit health and what industry can do to make them enjoyable, there will be some behavioural science to have food policy about.

David Booth School of psychology University of Birmingham

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